Tao Te Ching

The Power of Goodness, the Wisdom Beyond Words
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Authentic Presence

For reasons of survival - if not the typical motivations of fame, fortune, pleasure, and power - almost all of us sell at least part of our soul to the devils of materialism, ambition, and strategies for various kinds of success. Awareness of the true costs of these goal-oriented endeavors is both rare and potent. These quotes can help show us the unconscious prices we’re paying as well inspire new, more genuine shifts in life direction.

“Inner authentic presence comes from exchanging yourself with others, from being able to regard other people as yourself, generously and without fixation.” Chögyam Trungpa

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Quotes (87)

“When the words come from within, when you are freeing an idea, then the words are powerful. They give life to the thought. They can ignite a fire in another person’s mind.”

Imhotep 2650 – 2600 BCE
First Western architect, engineer and physician

2. The Wordless Teachings

“In giving advice, seek to help, not to please, your friend. Do not counsel what is most pleasant, but what is best.”

Solon 638 – 558 BCE
Founder of Athenian democracy

“The way to do is to be.”

Lao Tzu 老子 1 via Witter Bynner
from Way of Life According to Lao Tzu

“Before all, be real. Only the truth gives the power of Orpheus’ lyre to the word.”

Pythagorus 570 – 495 BCE
(of Samos)
"The most influential philosopher of all time"

“I have shown you the path of liberation. Now liberation depends on you.”

Buddha गौतम बुद्ध 563 – 483 BCE via Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche ཛི་གར་ཀོང་སྤྲུལ་
(Siddhartha Shakyamuni Gautama)
Awakened Truth

52. Cultivating the Changeless

“Genuineness is the path of immortality, thoughtlessness the path of death.”

Buddha गौतम बुद्ध 563 – 483 BCE via Shan Dao
(Siddhartha Shakyamuni Gautama)
Awakened Truth
from Dhammapada धम्मपद

“Truthfulness is the beginning and end of things; without truthfulness, there is nothing.”

Zisi 子思 481 – 402 BCE via Daniel K. Gardner
(Kong Ji or Tzu-Ssu)
Confucius' grandson and early influence on Neo-Confucianism
from Doctrine of the Mean, Maintaining Perfect Balance, Zhongyong 中庸

“Those who turn inward and find that they are not true to themselves cannot govern the people well.”

Zisi 子思 481 – 402 BCE
(Kong Ji or Tzu-Ssu)
Confucius' grandson and early influence on Neo-Confucianism
from Doctrine of the Mean, Maintaining Perfect Balance, Zhongyong 中庸

“Can you stop looking to others and focus on your innermost self? Can you return to the beginning of the world and be like a newborn baby?”

Chuang Tzu 莊周 369 – 286 BCE

76. The Soft and Flexible

“When your mind is transparent to the depths and your words and actions are one, the whole world becomes transparent.”

Chuang Tzu 莊周 369 – 286 BCE

24. Unnecessary Baggage

“I have never wished to cater to the crowd; for what I know they do not approve, and what they approve I do not know.”

Epicurus ɛpɪˈkjɔːrəs 341 – 270 BCE
Western Buddha
from On Nature

41. Distilled Life

“Life is to be sought and discovered in every circumstance.”

Jesus 3 BCE – 30 CE

40. Returning

“In trying to please other people, we lose hold on life's purpose. To live a wise life, live it on your own terms and in your own eyes.”

Epictetus Ἐπίκτητος 55 – 135 CE via Sharon Labell, Shan Dao

“The self-directed metaphysician discovers the life-germ, understands not just seeming-knowledge but authentic science; and, abandoning all the realms of deceit and falsity, wanders in the ‘Meadows of Truth.”

Plotinus 204 – 249 CE via Stephen MacKenna, B.S. Page, Shan Dao
from Enneads Ἐννεάδες Plotinus / Porphyry

“The real being, with no status, is always going in and out through the doors of your face.”

Rinzai Gigen 臨済義玄 1 via J.C. and Thomas Cleary
(Línjì Yìxuán)
from Zen Letters

“Sages create but do not possess what they create. They succeed but do not claim success. Because they do not lose themselves, they do not lose others.”

Wang Anshi 王安石 1021 – 1086 CE via Red Pine

2. The Wordless Teachings

“things themselves are the true self and the true self itself is things”

Yuanwu Keqin 圜悟克勤 1063 – 1135 CE via J.C. and Thomas Cleary
(Yuánwù Kèqín)
from Zen Letters

“Free from duality, preconception, and discursive thought; the realization of pure awareness and knowledge assures freedom.”

Jayānanda ཛ་ཡཱ་ནནྡ།། 1
("Crow Master")
Mahasiddha #58

“Empty, cold and thin, simple and genuine.. when you turn within and drop off everything completely, realization occurs… Every detail clearly appears before you. Sound and form, echo and shadow, happen instantly without leaving traces.”

Hóngzhì Zhēngjué 宏智正覺 1091 – 1157 CE

43. No Effort, No Trace

“Stop acting so small. You are the universe in ecstatic motion.”

Rumi مولانا جلال‌الدین محمد بلخی 1207 – 1283 CE
(Rumi Mawlānā Jalāl ad-Dīn Muḥammad Balkhī)
from Masnavi مثنوي معنوي‎‎) "Rhyming Couplets of Profound Spiritual Meaning”

16. Returning to the Root, Meditation

“The sage seeks without seeking and studies without studying. For the truth of all things lies not in acting but in doing what is natural. By not acting, the sage shares in the naturalness of all things.”

Wu Cheng 吴澄 1249 – 1333 CE via Red Pine
"Mr. Grass Hut"
from Tao-te-chen-ching-chu

“If you wish to be free from all blame, there is no better course than to be always sincere... All blame from others is due to pretending experience, making oneself out to be skillful, putting on superior airs, and looking down on people.”

Yoshida Kenkō 兼好 1284 – 1350 CE via Sir George Bailey Sansom
Inspiration of self-reinvention
from Essays in Idleness

“Progress on the Path is a reconstitution of our belief in a fictitious self, a transformation of ego being into real, authentic being.”

Longchenpa ཀློང་ཆེན་རབ་འབྱམས་པ། 1308 – 1364 CE via Herbert V. Guenther, Shan Dao
(Longchen Rabjampa, Drimé Özer)
from Kindly Bent to Ease Us, Trilogy of Finding Comfort and Ease ངལ་གསོ་སྐོར་གསུམ་

“Authentic presence may have a dream-like quality but it is not dreaming or tied to any purpose but founded on the recognition of reality developing from acceptance and appreciation.”

Longchenpa ཀློང་ཆེན་རབ་འབྱམས་པ། 1308 – 1364 CE via Herbert V. Guenther, Shan Dao
(Longchen Rabjampa, Drimé Özer)
from Kindly Bent to Ease Us, Trilogy of Finding Comfort and Ease ངལ་གསོ་སྐོར་གསུམ་

“And what is all this life but a kind of comedy, wherein men walk up and down in one another's disguises and act their respective parts… Thus are all things represented by counterfeit, and yet without this there is no living.”

Erasmus 1466 – 1536 CE
(Desiderius Roterodamus)
"Greatest scholar of the northern Renaissance"
from Praise of Folly

“The ways of the world become daily more artificial. Hence we have names like wisdom and reason, kindness and justice, cleverness and profit.”

Chiao Hung 1540 – 1620 CE
(Jiao Hung)

19. All Methods Become Obstacles

“Their utter honesty enables others to see. Hence they cannot be abandoned. They are content and free of desires. Hence they cannot be helped. They dwell beyond life and death. Hence they cannot be harmed.”

Deqing 1546 – 1623 CE

57. Wu Wei

“Know your strongest quality and cultivate it. Everyone would have excelled at something if they had known their strongest qualities but most do violence to themselves trying to be someone else.”

Balthasar Gracian 1601 – 1658 CE via Shan Dao #34
from Art of Worldly Wisdom

33. Know Yourself

“It is great and wise to be ill at ease when your deeds please the mob!”

Balthasar Gracian 1601 – 1658 CE via Joseph Jacobs, #28

41. Distilled Life

“Charm, the power of exotic beauty, fascinates and is like the flame in a fire, the light in a lamp, the luster in jewels. Commonly misunderstood as good looks, it’s much more powerful and can make the old appear young, the ugly beautiful, the dull exciting.”

Lǐ Yú 李漁 1610 – 1680 CE via Lin Yutang, Shan Dao
(Li Liweng)
from Art of Living

“There are too many men who claim to be pure scholars and yet are stupid and arrogant; we'd be better off with less talk of moral principle and more practice of it.”

Kāngxī 康熙帝 1654 – 1722 CE via Jonathan D. Spence
from Emperor of China, Self-Portrait of K'ang-hsi

“It is necessary to the happiness of man that he be mentally faithful to himself. Infidelity does not consist in believing or in disbelieving; it consists in professing to believe what he does not believe."”

Thomas Paine 1737 – 1809 CE

“The first duty of men is to take none of the principles of conduct upon trust; to do nothing without a clear and individual conviction that it is the right to be done.”

William Godwin 1756 – 1836 CE
Provocative and influential social, political, and literary critic
from An Inquiry Concerning Political Justice (1793)

“[People] don’t change, they unmask themselves.”

Madame de Staël 1766 – 1817 CE
(Anne Louise Germaine de Staël-Holstein)
"The greatest woman of her time"

“I was never in truth my own master; I was always governed by circumstance.”

Napoleon Bonaparte 1769 – 1821 CE via Will Durant

“What comes from the heart goes to the heart”

Samuel Taylor Coleridge 1772 – 1834 CE

“To greatly increase your happiness, just realize the simple truth that the value and the meaningfulness of our lives is within and not based on external factors.”

Arthur Schopenhauer 1788 – 1860 CE via Shan Dao
from Wisdom of Life

“One can imagine the look the two lovers exchanged; it was like a flame, for virtuous lovers have not a shred of hypocrisy.”

Balzac 1799 – 1850 CE
(Honoré de Balzac)

“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson 1803 – 1882 CE
Champion of individualism

33. Know Yourself

“What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson 1803 – 1882 CE
Champion of individualism

21. Following Empty Heart

“Whatever you are, be a good one.”

Abraham Lincoln 1809 – 1865 CE

“Why chase after thoughts which are only superficial ripples of present awareness?”

Jamgon Kongtrul the Great འཇམ་མགོན་ཀོང་སྤྲུལ་བློ་གྲོས་མཐའ་ཡས། 1813 – 1899 CE via Judith Hanson
(Jamgön Kongtrül Lodrö Thayé)
from Torch of Certainty

1. The Unnamed

“be yourself- not your idea of what you think somebody else's idea of yourself should be.”

Henry David Thoreau 1817 – 1862 CE
Father of environmentalism and America's first yogi
from Walden or Life in the Woods

33. Know Yourself

“with that solid, imperturbable ease and good-humor which is infections, and—like great grassy hills in the sunshine—quiets even an irritated egotism, and makes it rather ashamed of itself”

George Eliot 1819 – 1880 CE
(Mary Anne Evans)
Pioneering literary outsider

from Middlemarch

“Become who you are!”

Friedrich Nietzsche 1844 – 1900 CE
from Thus Spoke Zarathustra

“He who obeys, does not listen to himself!”

Friedrich Nietzsche 1844 – 1900 CE

38. Fruit Over Flowers

“Neither of us tried to meddle with the other’s soul and in this way my good husband and I, both of us, felt ourselves free in spirit.”

Anna Grigoryevna Dostoyevskaya ригорьевна Достоевская 1846 – 1918 CE

“Youk'n hide de fier, but w'at you gwine do wid de smoke?”

Joel Chandler Harris 1848 – 1908 CE
from Legends of the old Plantation

“To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all.”

Oscar Wilde 1854 – 1900 CE

“Follow your spontaneous inspiration above all gaining ideas. The world will either honor or hate you—the difference is small.”

Elbert Hubbard 1856 – 1915 CE via Shan Dao
from A Thosand and One Epigrams, 1911

“I long ago decided to try to be fully what I am and not to be anything or anybody else.”

David Grayson 1870 – 1946 CE
(Ray Stannard Baker)
One of the most insightful journalists, historians, and biographers of his time

from The Friendly Road

“No one is more sensitive to companionship than the lonely man, and companionship thrives only when each individual remembers his individuality and does not identify himself with others.”

Carl Jung 1875 – 1961 CE
Insightful shamanistic scientist
from Memories, Dreams, Reflections

“Siddhartha determined to no longer be instructed by any doctrine whatsoever and said, ‘I shall learn from myself, be a pupil of myself; I shall get to know myself, the mystery of Siddhartha.’ He then looked around as if he were seeing the world for the first time.”

Hermann Hesse 1877 – 1962 CE via Hilda Rosner, Shan Dao
from Siddhartha

“The most awkward means are adequate to the communication of authentic experience, and the finest words no compensation for lack of it.”

Ananda Coomaraswamy குமாரசுவாமி 1877 – 1947 CE
Perennial philosophy's Citizen of the World

“Realization is not acquisition of anything new nor is it a new faculty. It is only removal of all camouflage”

Ramana Maharshi 1879 – 1950 CE

“The things that make me different are the things that make me.”

A.A. Milne 1882 – 1956 CE
(Alan Alexander Milne)
from Waiting At The Window

33. Know Yourself

“Welcome, O Life! I go to encounter for the millionth time the reality of experience and to forge in the smithy of my soul the uncreated conscience of my race.”

James Joyce 1882 – 1941 CE
from A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

“She had come to feel that it was the only thing worth saying – what one felt. Cleverness was silly. One must say simply what one felt.”

Virginia Woolf 1882 – 1941 CE
from Mrs. Dalloway

“if today's creative artist formulated his deepest inner presentiments with integrity, he would aid future man to be born one hour sooner, one drop more integrally.”

Nikos Kazantzakis 1883 – 1957 CE via P. A. Bien
from Report to Greco

“Desire, not experience, is the essence of life; experience becomes the tool of desire in the enlightenment of mind and the pursuit of ends.”

Will Durant 1885 – 1981 CE
Philosophy apostle and popularizer of history's lessons
from Fallen Leaves

“The great majority of us are required to live a life of constant duplicity. Your health is bound to be affected if, day after day, you say the opposite of what you feel, if you grovel before what you dislike, and rejoice at what brings you nothing but misfortune.”

Boris Pasternak Бори́с Леони́дович Пастерна́к 1890 – 1960 CE
Russia's greatest poet

“If I only knew who in fact I am, I should cease to behave as what I think I am; and if I stopped behaving as what I think I am, I should know who I am.”

Aldous Huxley 1894 – 1963 CE

“I'd rather be unhappy than have the sort of false, lying happiness you were having here.”

Aldous Huxley 1894 – 1963 CE
from Brave New World

“I'm afraid of losing my obscurity. Genuineness only thrives in the dark. Like celery.”

Aldous Huxley 1894 – 1963 CE

70. Inscrutable

“Perhaps the greatest gift one can give to another human being is not any thing, not ideas, not knowledge, but one's full attention.”

Krishnamurti 1895 – 1986 CE
(Jiddu Krishnamurti)

“Either you think — or else others have to think for you and take power from you, pervert and discipline your natural tastes, civilize and sterilize you.”

F. Scott Fitzgerald 1896 – 1940 CE
Prototype of "Jazz Age" exuberance
from Tender is the Night (1934)

“But pretense was impossible. There was a quality in the air of Shangri-La that forbade one the effort of counterfeit emotion.”

James Hilton 1900 – 1954 CE
from Lost Horizon

57. Wu Wei

“Uncarved wood… metaphysically means the One, simple and undifferentiated… simplicity, plainness, genuineness in spirit and heart”

Wing-tsit Chan 陳榮捷 1901 – 1994 CE
from Way of Lao Tzu

15. Inscrutability

“We must learn to be different…If Wakan Tanka likes the plants, the animals, even little mice and bugs to do this, how much more will he abhor people being alike, doing the same thing, getting up at the same time, putting on the same kind of store-bought clothes, working in the same office at the same job with their eyes on the same clock and, worst of all, thinking alike all the time.”

John Fire Lame Deer 1903 – 1976 CE via Richard Erdoes
from Lame Deer, Seeker of Visions

18. The Sick Society

“Man is the only creature that refuses to be what he is.”

Albert Camus 1913 – 1960 CE

“In this world that our technological skill has made rigid, artificial, and spiritually void; we have a desperate need to recover spontaneity and depth.”

Thomas Merton 1915 – 1968 CE via Shan Dao
from The Way of Chuang Tzu

“It's such a relief to realize that we don't have to be anything.”

Toni Packer 1927 – 2013 CE
A Zen teacher minus the 'Zen' and minus the 'teacher.’
from Light of Discovery

33. Know Yourself

“Forget yourself. Become one with eternity. Become part of your environment.”

Yayoi Kusama 草間 彌生 1929 CE –

39. Oneness

“If as Sun Tzu says, ‘Deception is the art of war,’ it follows that being genuine and authentic is the art of peace.”

Shan Dao 山道 1933 CE –

57. Wu Wei

“stepping into the future of the new America, we may discover in ourselves and of the old Earth, which is yearning for all of us to become genuine men and women of the soul.”

Jacob Needleman 1934 CE –
American religious scholar, historian, philosopher, and author
from American Soul

“The cause or the virtue that brings about authentic presence is emptying out and letting go. You have to be without clinging… earn authentic presence by letting go, and by giving up personal comfort and fixed mind.”

Chögyam Trungpa 1939 – 1987 CE

18. The Sick Society

“When you meet a person with authentic presence, you find he has an overwhelming genuineness, which might be somewhat frightening because it is so true and honest and real. You experience a sense of command radiating from the person of inner authentic presence. Although that person might be a garbage collector or a taxi driver, still he or she has an uplifted quality, which magnetizes you and commands your attention. This is not just charisma.”

Chögyam Trungpa 1939 – 1987 CE
from Shambhala: The Sacred Path of the Warrior

“It’s not a question of what you should be or what you should not be doing. It’s a question of what you are.”

Chögyam Trungpa 1939 – 1987 CE
from Illusion's Game

59. The Gardening of Spirit

“Inner authentic presence comes from exchanging yourself with others, from being able to regard other people as yourself, generously and without fixation.”

Chögyam Trungpa 1939 – 1987 CE

“Trying to please everybody is impossible - if you did that, you'd end up in the middle with nobody liking you. You've just got to make the decision about what you think is your best, and do it.”

John Lennon 1940 – 1980 CE

33. Know Yourself

“Some people feel the rain, others just get wet.”

Bob Marley 1945 – 1981 CE

“Like a child at the cinema, we get caught up in the illusion. From this comes all of our vanity, ambition, and insecurity. We fall in love with the illusions we have created and develop excessive pride in our appearance, our possessions, and our accomplishments. It’s like wearing a mask and proudly thinking that the mask is really you.”

Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche རྫོང་གསར་ འཇམ་དབྱངས་ མཁྱེན་བརྩེ་ རིན་པོ་ཆེ། 1961 CE –
(Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse Rinpoche)
"Activity" incarnation of Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo
from What Makes You Not a Buddhist

39. Oneness

“There is nothing inherently wrong with playing roles, but it is important to notice when the roles start to play us... When such patterns of behavior become so ingrained that we don't even notice them, how authentic are we being in the various roles we play?”

Roman Krznaric 1
Practical, popular, modern philosopher

from Carpe Diem Regained (2017)

“the bare nature of our mind, the naked state of our being, does not feel at all comfortable with these layers of conceptual, philosophical, and religious clothing that we are trying to put on.”

Dzogchen Pönlop 1965 CE –

43. No Effort, No Trace

“You build a mask and then grow into that mask... masks that hide our true selves... The process of training the mind peels off the masks... let go of rote behaviors... being defensive and uptight, lazy, irritable, or self-conscious... We can survive the death of impersonating ourselves, and of wearing masks. We will not just survive, but flourish.”

Mingyur Rinpoche 1975 CE –
Modern-day Mahasiddha

from In Love With the World

“authenticity is a myth. People are afraid of being trapped inside a box, but they don't realize that they are already trapped inside one—their brain—which is locked within the bigger box of human society with its myriad fictions... your core identity is a complex illusion created by neural networks.”

Yuval Harari יובל נח הררי‎ 1976 CE –
Israeli historian, professor, and philosopher

from 21 Lessons for the 21st Century

“Just to simply relax and rest in your own natural state is all that you need to do.”

Karmapa XVII ཨོ་རྒྱན་འཕྲིན་ལས་རྡོ་རྗ 1985 CE –
(Orgyen Thrinlay Dorje)

57. Wu Wei

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